Saturday, 1 April 2023

Faith and Action


What does it mean to be a Christian? To have Faith?

We proclaim we are Christians, we go to church on Sunday, other days even, we pray, and we fast perhaps. But is that enough?

When we get to meet God, will we say: “I helped in church every week. I cleaned the church and arranged the flowers. Please let me in Heaven.” or “I served on the church council for years, I was responsible for the readers’ rota and I read in church on Sundays many times. I typed and printed the weekly church newsletter. Please let me in.”

Is this what it means to be a Christian?

Or should we be a channel of His peace as St Francis of Assisi prayed? Or help the poor and destitute as Mother Theresa did?

"My brothers and sisters, what good is it for people to say that they have faith if their actions do not prove it? Can that faith save them? Suppose there are brothers or sisters who need clothes and don't have enough to eat. What good is there in your saying to them, “God bless you! Keep warm and eat well!” — if you don't give them the necessities of life? So it is with faith: if it is alone and includes no actions, then it is dead." James 2:14-17.

Wednesday, 29 March 2023

Happy Anniversary Father Francis


Father Francis Maple is a Franciscan monk who celebrates his 60th Anniversary as a priest on 30 March 2023.

Thank you for hearing the call and for your many years serving Our Lord.
May God bless you and protect you always.

Being told at school that he had a pleasant voice was the encouragement which led Fr. Francis Maple OFM Cap to play the guitar and, eventually, earn the title of "The Singing Friar" with concerts at the Liverpool Philharmonic, Preston Guildhall, Derby Assembly Rooms and London's Drury Lane, and the recording of 42 albums and a Gold Disc for his album the “Old Rugged Cross”.  This success helped Father Francis raise over one million pounds for charities supporting the poor - for which he was awarded the MBE in the Queen's 1997 Honours List.

He has also sung in public over the years in malls, shopping centres, bus stations and at his own concerts to raise money for charity. He has also written several books, (sermons, cooking recipes, jokes), and has contributed to many newspaper columns and Catholic newspapers and magazines. He spends a lot of time travelling throughout the UK leading Missions in various Catholic churches. 

Here I Am, Lord

I, the Lord of sea and sky,
I have heard my people cry.
All who dwell in dark and sin
My hand will save.

I who made the stars of night,
I will make their darkness bright.
Who will bear my light to them?
Whom shall I send?

Here I am, Lord. Is it I, Lord?
I have heard you calling in the night.
I will go, Lord, if you lead me.
I will hold your people in my heart.

I, the Lord of snow and rain,
I have borne my people's pain.
I have wept for love of them.
They turn away.

I will break their hearts of stone,
Give them hearts for love alone.
I will speak my word to them.
Whom shall I send?

Here I am, Lord. Is it I, Lord?
I have heard you calling in the night.
I will go, Lord, if you lead me.
I will hold your people in my heart.

I, the Lord of wind and flame,
I will tend the poor and lame.
I will set a feast for them.
My hand will save.

Finest bread I will provide
Till their hearts be satisfied.
I will give my life to them.
Whom shall I send?

Here I am, Lord. Is it I, Lord?
I have heard you calling in the night.
I will go, Lord, if you lead me.
I will hold your people in my heart.

Isaiah 6
Dan Schutte

Sunday, 26 March 2023

Was He human?


John said to Father Ignatius, "I really don't understand Jesus ..."

"What is it that you do not understand?" asked the kind old priest gently.

"Well, I believe in God," replied the teenager, "but I don't understand how Jesus could be His Son. God wasn't married."

Father Ignatius knew that he had to tread carefully. Obviously, a lot had not been taught clearly during Catechism classes.

"How would you describe God?" he asked in a kind voice, smiling a little.

"Well ... He's a Spirit, isn't He?" said the young man, "a bit like a ghost. No one has truly seen Him. He is painted in old paintings like an old man with a beard, but Sister Anne said that this is to help us visualise Him."

"Sister Anne is right," continued the priest, "God is a living Spirit, inhabiting a spiritual world all around us. The angels are spirits. Devils too. Also the Holy Spirit and Jesus too."

The boy nodded as Father Ignatius continued.

"When we recite the Credo we say: I believe in one Lord Jesus Christ, the only begotten Son of God, and born of the Father before all ages. God of God, light of light, true God of true God. Begotten not made, consubstantial to the Father, by whom all things were made.

"Note the words born of the Father, meaning He was born, not made or created just like God created us. Jesus is consubstantial to the Father, which means of one substance as God. That is Jesus is also a Spirit, the same as God. Jesus has always existed as a Spirit just like God has been.

"Now these words were not just invented by the writers of the Credo. The people who met at the first ecumenical council of churches in Nicea in the year 325 wrote them down after much prayers and debate. 

"These are also the words of Jesus Himself. Often He said that He was and is the Son of God. 

"You will also remember that during the Baptism of Jesus the Holy Spirit appeared like a dove and a voice from Heaven said, 'This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased!' "

The boy nodded again.

"The same happened at the Transfiguration," continued the priest, "a voice was heard from the cloud said, 'This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased. Listen to Him!' 

"God, and Jesus, confirmed several times that Jesus is the Son of God. He was born as a human, through the Holy Spirit, so that we might get to see Him and recognise Him. 

"As you said, John ... God is an invisible Spirit, and so is Jesus, as He has always been. But He was born as a human baby so that He might grow amongst us and we get to know Him better. He was made flesh for our eyes to see, and our ears to hear Him and His message."

"Did He have the same feelings as us?" asked the young boy.

"Yes, I believe so," replied Father Ignatius, "when He was beaten and tortured at the Crucifixion He felt the same agony and pain that any of us would have felt. He had the same emotions as us. He felt compassion for the people He met. Sadness at the death of Lazarus. He felt tired and fell asleep on the boat. He was thirsty and asked the Samaritan woman at the well for a drink. Yes, I believe He had the same human emotions as us albeit He is God at the same time."

"Why did He not marry?" asked the boy then bit his lip.

The priest did not react, but continued gently.

"I believe that as a human He shared the same human emotions as us. Remember the devil tempted Him in the desert with similar temptations he would use to us. If you are God's Son as you claim you are jump from this temple. Turn these stones into bread. Why don't you worship me? I can offer you much in return. I suspect that if chocolate had been invented at the time, Satan would have tempted Him with this too.”

The boy smiled as the priest went on.

"I guess Jesus may have had some feelings for women as any human would have; but being God at the same time He knew that His mission on earth would have been jeopardised in this respect. 

"He knew, well before He was born as a human, what His mission was and how humanity would treat Him. He accepted this as the will of God and as an eternal sacrifice for us all. The Old Testament is full of prophesies about Him and His mission; at least 300 of them have been fulfilled in His lifetime and death and Resurrection.

"I think that one way to understand Jesus is that He was, when on earth, a human with the soul of God. He was as He has always been, a Spirit just like God, but in appearance residing in a human body.

"That being said, however, there is one truth which we as Christians believe and from which there is no flinching doubt or hesitation ... Jesus is the Son of God. He was not just a teacher, a wise man, a prophet or whoever else some people would wish to describe Him or believe. Time and again He asked those around Him Who they believed He was; and every time He corrected them and said He is the Son of God. 

"When Jesus asked 'Who do you say I am?'  Simon Peter said, 'You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.' Jesus replied, 'Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah, for this was not revealed to you by flesh and blood, but by my Father in Heaven.'

"This is Divine affirmation that God, through the Holy Spirit, opened Peter's mind and made him understand that Jesus is the Son of God.

"Let there be no doubt about that."

Saturday, 25 March 2023

Maybe they don't want to be saved


There was this program on TV about wildlife and how some species are at risk of extinction unless we do something to save them. Then someone said, "why don't we leave them alone? Maybe their time has come and they don't want to be saved. What is it with us wanting to save everything? The animals, the planet, even you with your Christian books that you publish!" 

I did not react to the comment, but maybe it had a ring of truth. I do not write books to make money. I hope that someone somewhere may find what I write helpful.

Jesus did not go around compelling people to be saved. No one is forced into Heaven against their wish. It is God's desire that we should join Him in Paradise for eternity but the final decision is surely ours. If we choose not to go to Heaven then it is for us to go the other way; whatever we perceive it or imagine it to be. 

Maybe some people do not want to be saved. Either through negligence or defiant self-will they have chosen to turn their back on God. They have every right to do so. What right have we, Christians, to try and save them?

Then Jesus came to them and said, "All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to Me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey all that I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, even to the end of the age." Matthew 28:18

This paragraph has confused people for years on end. Does it mean we should all go out and "encourage" others to follow our ways and our beliefs? What if some of us are not good at public speaking, or writing, or knocking from door-to-door with leaflets, or standing at street corners?

What does Jesus really want? And are we failing Him by not following His instructions?

Each one of us has been given different talents and with them different responsibilities. I believe when we get to meet Christ face to face He may well remind us of Matthew 28:18

Those amongst us who have chosen to follow a religious vocation will have more to answer for. What is the point of a priest who has not "been Christ" to anyone?

Others will have to consider how their lives have affected others. 

As a youth Augustine lived a hedonistic lifestyle associating with young men who boasted of their sexual exploits. His very nature, he admitted, was flawed. However, it is said that his mother prayed all her life for God to help him and eventually Augustine turned to God and became a leading figure in the Church.

This is what Jesus expects of us. To pray for those who have gone astray and to lead by example. Let us look truthfully at our lives. Is it really one that others would wish to emulate? What is it about us that would make someone want to be a Christian like us?

Sure, maybe some people do not want to be saved. But then, are we a bad advert for Christ?

Friday, 24 March 2023

Star Trek and all that ...


I like Star Trek, especially Jean-Luc Picard, Benjamin Sisco and Kathryn Janeway. In fact I like all TV programs about space. 

One thing I don't understand though. Why is it when they meet a new race they show them round the Enterprise space ship and explain about warp drive, dilithium and other technical things? You wouldn't expect to show a stranger your whole house if they knocked at your door.

Also, why do they never take them to the kitchen and show them how to make French Fries?

As for me, whenever I meet someone new I always start with French Fries. Many years ago I had a new girl-friend. I had the choice of taking her to the Ritz Restaurant in London or to McDonald's. I did not want to risk the Ritz on a first date on account that it can be expensive. So I took her to the local McDonald's.

Turned out she was vegetarian and this immediately ended our relationship. I could not look forward to a lifetime of broccoli. Why is it that vegetarians always want to convert you to their way of thinking? 

So next time those Star Trek people meet other races from other galaxies perhaps they should give them some French Fries as a peaceful gesture in the quest to explore strange new worlds, to seek out new life
and new civilizations and to boldly go where no man has gone before. 

And also ... not to split an infinitive.

Wednesday, 22 March 2023

Walk Tall


Tuesday, 21 March 2023

Allo ... c'est moi, ici!


Have you ever wished you could take a holiday from being yourself? You know, being someone else but not you. Act totally differently from the same old same old you? 
Perhaps take a day off work and go to a town or city where no one knows you and pretend to be someone else. Perhaps speak in a different accent. Or dress as a down-and-out and mix for a while with the homeless to get to experience better how they feel. Or maybe be an angel and buy them food and coffee. 
Have you really never wished you were someone else for the day; anyone but you?
I like the French; and one day I decided to be French from there on. I got up in the morning, and after having a croissant for breakfast, (which I had deliberately purchased the day before), drank a black café and nearly choked myself on a Gitanes cigarette, I went out to the newsagent for my morning papers.

"Allo ..." I said to the newsagent, "Bonjour monsieur. Do you 'ave Le Monde and Paris Match pleeze?"

"Are you alright mate?" asked the newsagent having recognised me despite my beret and striped T shirt.

"Comment?" I continued in my best French accent, " 'ave you not zese publications?"

"What's the matter with you this morning?" asked the newsagent getting a little irritable, "why are you speaking in this terrible French accent?"

"Why iz it terrible?" I asked, making sure to pronounce terrible in French rather than in English, "do you not like ze French?"

"I like the French very much," he replied getting angry at my insinuation, "in fact I have a holiday home in France and we go there at least three times a year. It's you coming here this morning with your stupid hat and striped shirt pretending to be French. What's the matter with you?"

Now of course, if I am to have a holiday from being myself I had to remain in character and not go back to type as being me. So I asked him, "Do you 'ave Gitanes cigarettes?"

"No!" he growled.

"Do you 'ave Gauloises?" I continued.

"No!" he emphasised looking me straight in the eye.

"Wat cigarettes de France do you 'ave?" I asked.

"Look, I know you don't even smoke," he said. "So you either get your usual morning papers or you leave the shop right now. I'll set the dog on you!"

"Iz it a French poodle or a Papillon?" I asked. But I did not wait for a reply as he waved a baguette at me and threw a brioche which hit me at the back of the head as I left hurriedly.

This being someone else is not all it is cracked up to be. What is worse, when I got back home the dog did not recognise me and jumped at me biting me somewhere which changed my tone of voice, if not my accent, for the rest of the day.

How about you? Have you ever wished to have a holiday from being yourself and being someone else, real or imagined? Tell us who is your Walter Mitty fantasy.

Monday, 20 March 2023

What is Sin?

What is sin?

It is simply going against the will of God. Sadly, modern society has ceased to understand this. Since the time of creation God has taught us right and wrong. But today people have blurred the line between those two very distinct positions. Many feel that because everyone else does a certain thing then it is no longer wrong, and therefore it is not a sin. With the passage of time certain actions have ceased to be seen as wrong and so the concept of sin has been very much diluted.

If something was wrong years ago, it is still wrong today. 

For example, if you phone your boss and pretend you are ill in order to take a day off work, this is stealing. The fact that other people do it too does not lessen the fact that it is stealing.

If you listen or partake in gossip about someone, it is stealing his good name and reputation. It is in effect taking something away from him and causing him harm.

Sin is a deliberate behaviour to act against the will of God.

Can sin be forgiven? Of course it can, but to do so the individual must recognise that he has sinned, confess that sin and genuinely seek forgiveness. He should also resolve not to commit that particular sin again.

But yet again, the real meaning of forgiveness has been blurred with the passage of time. Many feel that by just saying "sorry" to God all is well again. This is in effect a sin in itself because it denigrates the great sacrifice which Christ made for us on the Cross. He did not die so that we casually say sorry without meaning it.

Being human, we are all liable to sin. The devil is always there to tempt us in various ways big or small. The sin of Adam and Eve was not a simple sin of disobedience about eating a forbidden fruit; it was the much more serious sin of wanting to be like God. The sin of defiance against their very creator.

The devil even tried to tempt Jesus, so we should not be much of a challenge to Him.

When temptation comes our way, we should follow Christ's example and pray. Prayer is a sure way to avoid sin at its source.

Sunday, 19 March 2023

When Circumstances Overwhelm Us.


Hello and welcome to Time for Reflections

There will be times in life when events and circumstances will overwhelm us. We will feel the need and necessity to respond, to get involved, to put things right.

As a good and important discipline, our first instinct should always be to hand over the situation to God. Even if we spend the shortest moment in doing so. We should give the situation, with its uncertainties, difficulties and fears to God.

This handing over to God ensures Divine intervention in every situation; however bad it is. This simple act of faith is repaid many times by God, because we are acknowledging His omnipotence, His power and His love for us.

Our first reaction should always be handing the situation to God, and then wait and watch calmly and patiently His oversight and His activity. We may well be tempted to act, and to take control once again; but we should wait on God’s command. God will show us what we should say and what we should do and when and how to do it.

By praising God in such difficult times, however bad they are, we are in effect demonstrating our total faith in Him and accepting that His will be done always; because His will is for our good.

Thank you for listening. God bless.  

Thank you very much for listening to Time for Reflections. This is Vic Moubarak saying bye bye for now and God bless.

Saturday, 18 March 2023

I love


Our teacher asked us what our favourite animal was, and I said, "Fried chicken."

She said I wasn't funny, but she couldn't have been right, because everyone else in the class laughed.

My parents told me to always be truthful and honest, and I am. Fried chicken is my favourite animal. I told my dad what happened, and he said my teacher was probably a vegetarian and would not have reacted if I'd said I loved fried couscous!

He said vegetarians love animals very much.

I do, too. Especially chicken, pork and beef. Anyway, my teacher sent me to the principal's office. I told him what happened, and he laughed, too. Then he told me not to do it again.

The next day in class my teacher asked me what my favourite live animal was.

I told her it was chicken. She asked me why, just like she'd asked the other children.

So I told her it was because you could make them into fried chicken.

She sent me back to the principal's office again. He laughed, and told me not to do it again. I don't understand. My parents taught me to be honest, but my teacher doesn't like it when I am.

Today, my teacher asked us to tell her what famous person we admire most.

I told her, "Colonel Sanders." Guess where I am now. Anyway, the principal smiled without saying a word and then he opened his desk drawer and we shared some KFC legs he had there.

Friday, 17 March 2023

The little fluffy yellow chick


Once upon a time there was a little fluffy yellow chick, all tiny and cute before it grew its grown-up feathers. It had been born in an incubator in a farm and now it lived in a big barn with hundreds of other chicks all running around, being fed and watered and kept warm by artificial heating systems. It was nice being there, safe and secure from the great outdoors and what lies beyond the barn.

One day the little chick noticed a gap beneath the door of the barn. He crawled under and got outside. Suddenly he was in a new world he had not even imagined existed. There was grass all around, and fields beyond with various creatures he had not seen before since he had never known cows, sheep and horses. 

He stepped out a bit further and noticed other barns like the one he'd just come out of. He sneaked into one and it was full of grown up chicks with real feathers rather than the yellow down they are born with.  

He then moved on to another barn and it was full of grown up chickens. He was amazed at what he saw and how from a baby chick like him he would grow into an adult bird. 

What a wonderful place this farm was, being taken care of, kept safe and fed and watered all your life. He was glad he was born in this place of all places. 

But as he wandered further he entered another huge building and what he saw there changed his mind about the idyllic place he was in. It was the abattoir where all the chickens were slaughtered and prepared for the supermarket. 

As he tried to escape a farmer noticed him and picked him up. "What a beautiful creature," said the farmer, "don't worry little one. Now that I have found you I will keep you safe. I promise you that you will not end up like those chickens you've just seen!"

"Whoooo? Meeeee?" said the chick in its tiny squeaky voice. (Did I mention it could talk?)

"Yes, you," said the farmer, "I promise you you will not be eaten like those chickens you just saw."

"I will not end up in a chicken pot?" asked the chick.

"No ..." smiled the farmer.

"Not as chicken soup?" the little bird asked again.

"Definitely not ..." confirmed the farmer.

"Or in a chicken pie?" asked the bird chancing its luck once again.

"No ... not in a chicken pie either," vouched the farmer.

"Or KFC?" 

The farmer caressed the chick tenderly and explained, "you will be safe. I will take you to my farm where you will be free to run wherever you want and you'll be fed and watered and never ever be killed like those chickens you saw. You'll live a happy natural life in my care."

True to his word the farmer released the chick in his farm amongst his other animals. The chick was happy running here and there enjoying life without a care in the world.

And that very afternoon he was run over by a tractor and killed.


The moral of this story is that more chicks are killed by tractors than by a rhinoceros. 


You can make up your own moral and write it in the comments box below. Invite others to do the same. Let's see how much wisdom we can gather.

Thursday, 16 March 2023

Measuring the Future


When you think about it a human lifespan is about 70 to 90 years. A 100 years if you're really lucky. Let's measure this in terms we can understand. For example, walking on the sand beside a beach. Imagine that all you did in life is walk on the beach. From the moment you were born until now, and beyond, all you do is walk on the beach. Can you imagine for a moment how much have you walked? Miles and miles and miles. You've probably gone round the earth several times with all that walking. That's a lot of walks over a long period of time.

Let us now measure your lifespan against an eternity thereafter. Suddenly a 100 years seem such a minute fraction of a measure. Eternity just goes on for ever doesn't it? It never stops. But a hundred years is a short measure from when we're born and when we die.

But people don't seem to think of eternity, do they? They certainly don't measure things in eternity. They don't see the future as eternity. They see it as 70 to 100 years maximum. Many don't even believe in eternity.

Yet if you were to ask people if they will go to Heaven you'd be surprised how many believe they'll go there. Most people probably don't know why, or what Heaven looks like, and what they would do if they get there. Some might say they'll go to spend time, eternity, with God; and not wonder whether God wants to spend an eternity with them.

That perhaps explains why so many people are focussed on the here-and-now. They don't believe in the here-after. They consider this life is it and there's nothing more. So they focus on their well-being, and that of their loved ones now. They become materialistic. Self-centered. Selfish even. Get as much as you can get now because when it's gone, it's gone. You're long time dead!

Many don't believe there's such a thing as a soul, or a spiritual world, or Spirits. Some don't even believe there is a God. So spending eternity with Him becomes irrelevant in their minds.

Let's consider this.

A human body is made mostly of water, chemicals and minerals. None of these components by themselves, if put on a table, can drive a car, build a house, or procreate. Yet put together a human being can perform many things.

An amazing paradox, don't you think?

Is it so far-fetched to suggest that the body is just a covering? And deep within there is a spirit. An invisible spirit from an invisible world. Some may call it a soul. And that humans are in fact souls covered by a body for recognition purposes in this short period of time we call a lifespan. Eventually the body disintegrates and the soul carries on existing in the spiritual world or state of being.

And it is the soul that behaves as humans do. It learns, it acts, it cares, it loves or hates or does whatever a human being does in a lifetime. It is the soul that is the mechanism behind our actions and not a combination of water, chemicals and minerals.

It is the soul that will continue into eternity after its first 70 to 100 years. 

Where it will continue to exist then, is up to you now.